A fashion show for the ages

BY GRACE HAERR | APRIL 09, 2015 5:00 AM

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Doubts about diversity at the University of Iowa will be delightfully dismissed by members of Walk It Out in their sixth-annual Multicultural Fashion Show on Saturday.

Walk it Out is a student organization intended to unite and celebrate individual backgrounds and sexual identities. The UI Asian American Coalition, the Indian Student Alliance, and the Black Student Union joined hands in 2009 to form the fashion show.

This year, Walk It Out has tied together 20 additional student cultural organizations including the African Student Association, Arabic Student Association, Korean Student Alliance, and many more.

“It’s more like an entertainment show than a fashion show,” said senior Kyle Davis, the president of Walk It Out. “We have two MCs for the night who have both been in the show before, and both have very high energy.” 

Each cultural group will have 15 minutes to strut and dance down Walk It Out’s professionally lit runway, which, Davis said, offers plenty of “glitz and glam.” Five hundred or more patrons are expected to attend.

“We are ready to present our group to the Iowa City campus and community and show the world who we are,” said junior Emily Miksch, a model for the LGBTQA group in Walk It Out. “It brings all sorts of backgrounds together to celebrate our differences.”

While new to modeling, this is not the first time she has drawn the eyes of a crowd, having figure-skated for 13 years.

“I attended last year, and I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I need to do this,’ ” Miksch said.

She and her fellow models will don everything from bedazzled Bollywood-style saris to multicolored kimonos to gender-bending fashions.

“We aren’t modeling brand-new off the runway outfits from New York City,” Miksch said. “It’s more about being able to connect with other people who don’t have the same background as I do … I want people to see that we are different, but we are here together, and the fashion show is another medium for me to be able to do that.”

Seven culturally diverse groups from around the world — including Africa, Latin America, East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, the LGBTQA community, and hip-hop — will flaunt their signature fashions, styles of dance, and tastes in music at 8 p.m. Saturday in the IMU Main Lounge.

Many of the models will dress to match their ethnic background, but Davis said no restrictions are enforced.

“We have African Americans in the Middle East group and whites in the South Asian group,” he said. 

Approximately 160 people auditioned for Walk It Out, and 120 made it to the final show. 

Former model for Walk It Out Diane Nukuri of Burundi said she had more fun than she had imagined. 

“I felt like I was part of a study-abroad program; I met so many people from so many different walks of life,” she said. “The people from my African group taught me a lot about African culture, from the makeup to their national flower. It’s definitely a learning experience being in this show.” 

In 2012, Walk It Out partnered with the UI Hospital and Clinics and kicked off the tradition of donating a portion of all sales from their fashion show to the HIV/AIDS Clinic to help treat patients with HIV/AIDS and raise awareness of the illness.

“We receive administrative funding for the show, so we don’t need the money,” Davis said. “So we make [audiences] give by having their admission go straight to HIV/AIDs. It started for a cause, and we want to end it for the cause, because it’s not about us, it’s about helping other people and raising cultural awareness.” 

Last year, nearly $2,000 went directly to the HIV/AIDS Clinic.

“We come together in this one thing. Our connection is stronger because of the show,” Miksch said. “Our goal is to have that connection come alive when we are performing … The culture and community that we bring is very moving.” 

Walk It Out Vice President Lydia Zhu said the audience should expect “nothing less than spectacular” from this year’s performance.

The doors will open at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. The early birds get to try authentic appetizers, receive free Walk It Out souvenirs, and steal a seat in the front row before the show officially starts at 8 p.m.

“I think people say they are open to meeting people from other cultures, and maybe they want to, but they don’t,” Davis said. “Bring down the barriers, broaden your horizons, and have respect for the performers.” 

Miksch offered her own advice.

“Don’t conform,” she said. “It’s boring.” 

Walk It Out Multicultural Fashion Show
When: 8 p.m. Saturday (doors open 6:30 p.m.)
Where: IMU Main Lounge 
Admission: $3 at IMU Hub in advance, $5 at the door

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